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Saturday, 13 June 2015

Analysis: Skyhammer Annihilation Force

While the 40k world's attention is focussed on the release of the new Space Marines codex, GW have quietly released an 'extra-codex' Formation with 'webstore exclusive' rules: the Skyhammer Annihilation Force. And wow, this is one Formation that you cannot ignore!


The Skyhammer Annihilation Force comprises:

  • Two Assault Squads with Jump Packs
  • Two Devastator Squads in Drop Pods
And no less than four special rules:
Shock Deployment: All units in a Skyhammer Annihilation Force start the game in Deep Strike Reserve. Instead of using the normal deployment and reserve rules for these units, you can, during deployment, choose whether this Formation will arrive during your first or second turn. The entire Skyhammer Annihilation Force automatically arrives on the turn you choose—no Reserve Rolls are required. Ignore this Formation's Drop Pods for the purposes of the Drop Pod Assault special rule.
First the Fire, then the Blade: On the turn they arrive from Deep Strike Reserve, the Devastator Squads in a Skyhammer Annihilation Force have the Relentless special rule and the Assault Squads can charge even though they arrived from Reserves that turn.
Suppressing Fusillade: A unit targeted by a Skyhammer Annihilation Force's Devastator Squad in the Shooting phase must take a Morale test at the end of the phase on 3D6, regardless of how many casualties were inflicted. If the test is failed, the enemy unit does not Fall Back, but must immediately Go to Ground. If the test is passed, the enemy unit is unable to fire Overwatch for the rest of the turn.
Leave No Survivors: Assault Squads in a Skyhammer Annihilation Force can use their Jump Packs in both the Movement phase and the Assault phase. If an Assault Squad from a Skyhammer Annihilation Force charges a unit that has Gone to Ground as a result of the Suppressing Fusillade special rule, that Assault Squad can reroll failed To Hit and To Wound rolls in the ensuring Assault phase.


Putting all these special rules together, we get:

  • An extra two Drop Pods arriving turn one, on top of whatever you're getting from Drop Pod Assault
  • Two* Devastator Squads that Pod in with Relentless—perfect for quad-grav squads
  • Two* Assault Squads that must Deep Strike in, but can then charge immediately with no risk of Overwatch, plus Hammer of Wrath and rerolls on charge range and To Hit and To Wound
This Formation is exceptionally powerful, because it comprises four valuable units with no tax, and effectively ignores all the detriments of Deep Strike!

Furthermore, the Chapter Tactics and Combat Squads rules also apply to this Formation. Remember that you can choose Chapter Tactics for this Formation independently of other Formations and Detachments in your army; I think Ultramarines would be best so your Devastators can reroll To Hit on the turn they arrive.

If you take 10-man squads then you can Combat Squad into up to four Assault and Devastator Squads respectively; this would allow you to semi-reliably Pin up to four enemy units, and tarpit up to four other enemy units in assault, on your first turn—potentially before your opponent has even had his first move!

Finally, if you're willing to gamble against the risk of Mishaps, you could load up an Assault Squad with attached Independent Characters with Jump Packs / Terminator Armour / another form of Deep Strike, then first turn charge with your deathstar without them ever being shot.


I don't know why GW persist with releasing 'webstore exclusive' rules (or 'White Dwarf exclusive') instead of just including them in publications, or emailing them out to their mailing lists as an incentive to subscribe to their spam. There is no actual exclusivity to these rules—they will get published online sooner or later. And while I personally love the new rapid-release approach GW has adopted over the last couple of years, making rules difficult to access serves no meaningful purpose—and is somewhat detrimental to competitive play, since no one likes to get surprised by new rules mid-way through a tournament!

But release method aside, GW have really done well with this new Formation. Space Marines really needed a boost to get them back onto competitive tables, and the Skyhammer Annihilation Force just might be a big factor in their resurgence. Watch out for this one on the battlefield!


  1. Holy shit that is amazing. Space marines needed a boost so they could match necrons and eldar's power levels. Shame my wolves are getting worse and worse with each new codex release :(

  2. Amazing formation to destroy/supress enemy shooty units. Not too expensive either if you can field them min-maxed or field them at full numbers for combat squad goodness.

  3. And is it fun? No.

  4. can i be use with codex blood angels

  5. Its a formation so yes. However, they would not be blood angels. Theyd be straight up space marines

  6. You could use Blood Claw and Long Fang models within this Formation. The Formation/Detachment system is really good for Marines, since you can model/paint all your minis as a single Chapter but tailor Faction or Chapter Tactics to suit each Det.

  7. Not just shooty units; if you build the Devs as 10-man squads then one Combat Squad can just be bolters and you can use them to Pin enemy assault/mobile units on turn one.

  8. That's right, this Formation has Faction Space Marines so they have to use one of the Chapter Tactics, they can't have Furious Charge like BA. But you could use your BA models to build this Formation, or use this Formation alongside your BA since they would be Battle Brothers.

  9. Honestly, this is a formation to sell models. It's a smart business strategy but that is the problem, I just can't use the models I already have since I have Devastators already, I still would need to buy the Assault Squads. But yeah, at least you get everything you need when you buy the formation to get the sheet. The only problem would be is if you did want to run both Devastators as Grav but honestly, I don't think that would be the way to go. Definitely, one squad of grav but I am thinking of doing Multi-melta with the other one to do what people have been doing with combi-melta Sternguard squads. I would say Lascannons or Missiles as well but they have a long range and don't need to get up close like those guys do but I can also see why someone wouldn't want heavy weapons at all since you would need to not move to shoot while the Grav cannons can move and shoot.

  10. I guess...it's not like these are super rare models though. I would be willing to bet most Space Marine players of a few years have all the models required already

  11. This is no where in the website. I am calling BS

  12. Dawnbringer Garderia14 June 2015 at 01:58

    Then you must have BS0, because it's on the front page of GWs site since today.

  13. I think it's a country thing. It's not on the U.S. Webstore

  14. Ben_There_Twice14 June 2015 at 03:23

    I can see taking this in a more competitive list but I wouldn't take it in a friendly match, especially against Tau without my opponent's permission. Having eight squads (assuming you combat squad all of them) bearing down on an opponent would really suck especially if one takes scouts or scout bikers with beacons to make the drop all the more accurate. Combining this with a drop pod list would be lethal. 5 drop pods coming down turn one would be really scary (assuming one takes a total of 7 drop pods, 2 via the formation and 5 in a normal force org chart). Hmm.. I think I might do this with my Blood Angels, Dante could really shine here.

    Also as someone said earlier it'd probably be best to go with one devestator squad with muiltimeltas and another with grav. The multimeltas are harder to bubble wrap against since you'd need 12 inches instead of 6, which could make all the difference, unless you're facing the green tide. Heavy bolters wouldn't be a bad choice either, especially with Crimson Fists. Missile launchers could be funny if they somehow scattered on your own troops. Either way this formation can be really scary and IMO there should have been a 'tax' of some sort..

  15. Looks fun to me.

  16. Dawnbringer Garderia14 June 2015 at 03:58

    If the libby is up on there, that should be too.

  17. Master_Toddius14 June 2015 at 04:00

    This is starting to become a game of Ro Sham Bo. Very little strategy anymore.

  18. generalanvilpants14 June 2015 at 04:05

    I don't see this formation as over the top powerful.

    With the prevalence of Tau Firebase Support Cadres with Early Warning
    Systems and Preferred Enemy: Space Marines as well as the resurgent use
    of Inquisitor Coteaz (thanks to 3 source list building now) there are plenty of Interceptor-like counters to stop the potency of this formation.

    Are Devastators with Relentless really that much more powerful than a maxed Sternguard squad with Combi-weapons? Equipped with Grav cannons they certainly can unleash a good deal of devastation. They're also tremendously pricey and much more squishy than Centurions.

    And Assault squads being able to charge on the turn they arrive is very good...but they're still just Assault squads with limited power weapon attacks and only a single melta bomb. Eviscerators are a nice addition but prohibitively priced for only a single attack, two on the charge.

    In my mind this formation merely makes these units usable and a worthwhile alternative to Sternguard & Centurions, a welcome change to see more variety in army builds.

    It remains to be seen whether taking up one of your finite army source slots makes this formation more worthwhile to take than Knights, Inquisition, Mechanicus, Fleshtearers or Assassins (Culexis).

  19. Yeah but there is no other way to get those rules except to buy that formation and if you want to use Grav Devastators which benefit greatly from this formation, you still have to buy new ones. It's not like GW is offering a way to get these rules outside of the formation.

  20. Well with the release speed we will probably get a new Space Wolves codex sometime next summer, since in August 2016 the Space Wolves codex will be two years old.

  21. me too, just a new thing to get used to.

  22. I think Grav will be much better than MM for the Devs in this Formation. If you want Pod melta then Sternguard are still optimal, and there is a new Formation in the codex which is great if you want a few such squads.

  23. These are all very good points. This Formation is by no means 'unstoppable' but it does reinforce the need to build lists that can survive alpha strikes, and the need to deploy defensively against Pods. Just like everything else in 40k, this has its counters.

    In terms of raw firepower, there is not much difference between Relentless Grav Devs, Grav Cents, and Combi Sternguard. However, the Devs in this Formation also have very strong utility, because forcing 3D6 Pinning tests on up to four enemy units is very valuable for hurting your opponent's mobility and firepower in the crucial early turns.

    If you want your Assault Squads to do damage on the charge, then you can load them up with Characters and just use them as a delivery mechanism. Alternatively, you use your Assault Squads to charge weak shooty units and prevent them from shooting the following turn. The real value of this Formation is in degrading the mobility and firepower of up to eight enemy units on your first time, allowing the rest of your army better freedom of manoeuvre.

    I have no advice to offer if you're playing some bastardised version of the game that changes army selection rules. In real 40k, there are no limits on Detachment numbers.

  24. Carry on hating and playing warmachine.

  25. I rules are printed above, why can't you use them?

  26. Could combine this with some librarians from a conclave, and some aggressive placement of servo skulls from and Inquisitor for less scatter.

  27. Andrew Shaeffer15 June 2015 at 02:16

    Well thanks to farsight I just take a crap load of crisis suits and interceptor the crap out of it...

  28. "Well my rock will smash your scissors!!!" comments don't really add much to a constructive debate. Here is why Interceptor Tau are not going to stop this Formation from being widely used:
    - Tau in general are no longer a particuarly strong army, and have plenty of other challenges they can't overcome simply by spamming Interceptor
    - Tau can no longer apply Interceptor and Ignores Cover simultaneously to AP2 Blast weapons, so the biggest threat to Deep Strikers is gone
    - This Formation can take Chapter Tactics Raven Wing for Shrouded and happily take 3++ all day against Interceptor Riptides

    And then there is the fact that everything that fires Interceptor loses their next turn of shooting, making this Formation even better at neutralising a huge chunk of your early game firepower.

  29. Andrew Shaeffer15 June 2015 at 09:48

    Yea well I figured that this forum was going to be a bunch of circle jerk fan boys who had a marine hard on. You only proved me right. Twonk.

  30. Big call coming from a moron who thinks it's still 2013 and Tau aren't shit. lol

  31. It's funny that you still think that Tau are good. News flash: it's not 2013 anymore.

  32. *chapter tactics raven guard

    - don't sully the dark angels ;) lol

  33. My bad ;P

    But you knew what I meant! I think Raven Guard are the 'stealth' pro choice in the new codex.

  34. Henrik Hans Christensen18 June 2015 at 01:09

    May you depart from the terms of the formation, and put, for example, a character in the unit? I can not read it anywhere in the rules. but I thought you should stick to the contents of the formation only?

  35. Guido Hockmann18 June 2015 at 02:36

    A very apt analysis.

  36. Guido Hockmann18 June 2015 at 02:47

    Unfortunately, as a Raven Guard player, I'm aware that their first turn shrouded special rule does not apply to units which started the game in a transport. It will apply to the assault marines but not to the devastators who disembarked from a drop pod.

  37. Devastators can not wield Grav Cannons nor can Centurion Devastators take Drop Pods.

  38. Sure they can. Read the new Codex.

  39. I think they can, since the Formation rules all say "the Assault/Devastator Squads in this Formation..." which is notably NOT "models in this Formation..."

    Consider that "While an Independent Character is part of a unit, he counts as part of the unit for all rules purposes, though he still follows the rules for characters." [Rules, p166]

    To me, an IC attached to an Assault Squad will benefit from all the Formation rules that apply to its Assault Squads, e.g. charge on arrival. This makes the Formation a great delivery mechanism for beatstick characters, but you do risk Deep Strike Mishaps if you take that approach.

  40. 40k list building has always been an exercise in measures and countermeasures, it's just more extreme in the modern game than historically, because the Factions have become so numerous and diverse.

    However, there is still a lot of strategy in gameplay. Beating Scissors with a Rock is easy—beating Scissors with Paper is possible in 40k, with good strategic gameplay.

    And if your experience of 40k is that games are won and lost purely on the pre-game exchange of army lists, then I suggest you need to play Maelstrom missions with more terrain.

  41. Ah that's too bad. Still very good for the Assault Marines though.

  42. alexander williams21 June 2015 at 02:05

    Yes but you would have to roll for him to arrive from reserves or put him in a pod with another squad

  43. So the assault squads can DS and then move? Otherwise what would be the loin of saying they cook use their jump packs in both phases?

  44. No they can't move on the drop, but can assault. They get the advantage of 12" move + reroll charge + HoW on subsequent turns.

  45. This reddit discussion says the skyhammer will hit Craftworld Eldar hard, what do you think?

  46. I think this Formation will be a good tool for Marines to use against Eldar, but I don't think it will "wreck Eldar hard" as the linked post suggests.

    I don't think the author of the linked post has any real idea of what competitive Eldar armies actually look like. He references Banshees and the Avatar... lol. Furthermore, the only non-vehicle, non-Fearless units that Eldar deploy are Jetbikes, and all Bikes are inherently immune to pinning, so he is overestimating the impact of the Devastators.

    Grav is very good against Eldar, but that's why competitive Eldar typically deploy inside a Void Shield, which completely neutralises Grav.

    One Assault Marine takes 1/3 HP from a vehicle in close combat. So unless you spend up on an Eviscerator in every combat squad, this Formation is only likely to kill two tanks on the drop, not four.

    I think the Skyhammer will help Marines against Eldar, but it's not auto-win by any means.